Cafe Philosophique Thu 9 Dec, 7pm. Free. Institut Francais d’Ecosse, 13 Randolph Crescent, 225 5366. If you’re keen to voice an opinion on current affairs, fuelled by some fine French wine, then head on down to the Cafe Philosophique. Don’t worry if your French isn’t ’tres bien’ - the proceedings are held in English. Jesus The Masterbuilder Tue 14 Dec, 7pm. £2.50. The Royal Incorporation Of Architects In Scotland, 15 Rutland Square, 229 7205. Architectural historian, Gordon Strachan, expounds his theory that Jesus may well have been a masterbuilder rather than a ca nter. Hmmmmm.

Ca on Hill Observatory - Scotland's ‘l’imekeeping Centre Wed 15 Dec, 12.30pm. Free. Huntly House, 142 Canongate, 529 4143. Graham Rule, secretary of The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh gives a lunchtime talk.

Other Events

Living History Displays Edinburgh Castle, 225 9846. Entry to Castle: £6.50 (£2-£5). 'I\vo theatrical demonstrations bringing history to life this fortnight: Life Under Seige recreates the time of the Jacobite uprising on Thu 2 Dec, Thu 9 Dec and Thu 16 Dec, 10am—4pm; and the Jacobite redcoats and Highland clans do battle in All For The Prince on Fri 3 Dec and Fri 10 Dec, 10am—4pm.

Winter Wonderland Thu 2-Thu 16 Dec, Sun-Wed 10am—8pm; Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. £3.50—£4.50 (£2.50—£3.50); family ticket £12.50. Princes Street Gardens East, 226 2151. Indulge in some open-air ice skating as the garden is transformed into a winter wonderland. As well as plain old skating there’ll be a host of exciting events including ice dance performances, music from local bands and pre-club parties at weekends, plus the odd ice hockey tournament. You can also enjoy your favourite Christmas food and do some shopping at the Christmas Craft Fair. And let the bells ring out for Christmas!

Celebration Of life Sat 4 Dec, 7.30pm. £8 (£6). St Mary’s Cathedral, 23 Palmerston Place, 556 3959. TV presenter Sheena McDonald and playwright Liz Lochhead are amongst those taking part in this fundraising concert for Waverley Care Trust. See photo caption.


Caledonian Brewery

Slateford Road, Edinburgh, 623 8066. Tours Mon-Fri 11am, 12.30pm & 2.30pm. £5. The award-winning Caledonian Brewery, still going strong after 100 years, let you into the secrets behind the crafting of their fine ales. The tour takes you through the brewing process, from crushing the malt to brewing in the open coppers, culminating in a free beer of your choice in the sample cellar. Private evening and weekend tours available, call for details.

Dynamic Earth

Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, 550 7800. Mon-Sun 10am-6pm. £5.95 (£3.50); family ticket £16.50. With volcanoes erupting beneath your feet, a tropical rainstorm pouring down, earthquakes and tidal waves at every turn, the history of the earth has never been more interesting. Edinburgh’s new visitor attraction uses stunning developments in interactive technology to piece together the history of the planet, creating a thoroughly modern way to step back in time.


Everything you ever wanted to know about MARY KING'S CLOSE

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that kind of thing, and during one such re-telling, with the lights turned off, it is momentarily very scary.

Ultimately the cruelty of a community which could wall up 400 people (not all of whom even had the disease) and leave them to die is story enough, so even if you don't buy into the supernatural side of the tour, it's still worth journeying underground for. (Kelly Apter)

Informative 4/5

Fright Factor 2/5

Value for money 4/5

How To Book Advanced booking on the number below is always required. Tours currently run Mon—Fri 2.30pm & 8.30pm, Sat-Sun 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 8.30pm & 9.30pm but times change according to the season.

Where to meet The Mercat Cross, just behind St Giles’ Cathedral on the High Street - look out for the Mercat Tours

You can say what you like about the NHS, but if you're feverish, vomiting and dripping with scabby sores, chances are they'll find a bed for you - which is more than can be said for the healthcare providers of 17th century Edinburgh. In 1645, the residents of Mary King’s Close found themselves the victims of a most unfortunate lock-in. Thought to be a hotbed for the then rife Bubonic Plague, the gates at either end of the close were sealed shut, then bricked up so that neither person nor pox could escape into the public domain. Two weeks of cries for help later, the close fell silent, leaving a once thriving street the subject of over 300 years of ghostly speculation.

Speculation which Mercat Tours are very happy to cash in on. One of a series of ghoulish walks run by the company, the Mary King's Close tour is a mixed bag. On the one hand the story behind this hidden street is eminently fascinating, packed with historical titbits about living conditions,

sanitation (or lack of) and religious persecution. This alone bli'board- would make the tour interesting and worthwhile, and it’s How much it costs £5 (£3.50—f4); children £3 and a family not often you get to wander the city’s underbelly. ticket £13

Unfortunately, the relentless tales of apparent apparitions soon wear a bit thin, and for the sceptics among us, detract from the credulity of the tour. That said, a lot of folk like

How long it lasts 75 mins I Mary King’s Close Tour, Mercat Tours, 0731 225 6597.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, 225 9846. Daily 9.30am-5pm (last admission 4.15pm). £6 (£2-£5). Although much of the castle ’s medieval character was lost when it was converted into barracks in the 19th century, continuing excavations aim to redress

toe TNEW 2-16 Dec 1999

Tue 10am-8pm. £3 (£1.50); children under 18 free. Devoted solely to the history and heritage of Scotland, the building contains five thematically- arranged exhibitions, moving from pre- history, through the Industrial Revolution, to the present day, at which point national heroes such as Billy Connolly and Elaine C. Smith get involved. See Art listings, page 95 for temporary exhibitions.

under 18 free. A 19th century museum housing international collections of natural history, geology, science, technology and the decorative arts, plus two permanent exhibitions: Art & Industry and The Ivy Wu Gallery. SeeArt listings, page 95 for temporary exhibitions.

this. Other attractions include James lV’s famous cannon, Mons Meg, lots of military silverware and, of course, The Stone Of Destiny, used to crown Scottish kings since time began.

Huntly House

142 Canongate, Edinburgh, 529 4143. Moanat lOam—Spm. Free. Packed with historic artefacts, this restored 16th century mansion tells the story of Edinburgh’s past and its people and houses important collections of Edinburgh silver and glass, Scottish

Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre

354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 220 0441. Daily 9.30am—5pm. £4.95 (£2.50-£3.50); family ticket £12. Take a romp through

Old Town Weaving Company 555 Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh,

pottery and shop signs. 226 1555. Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm; Sun the traditions and history of yer national 10am-5pm. £4 (£1); family ticket £8. drink at this fully interactive attraction. Museum Of Childhood Watch tartan appear before your eyes at Highlights include a lesson from a ghost

master-blender, a barrel-car ride through whisky history and a well-stocked bar in which to test your newly-acquired

42 High Street, Edinburgh, 529 4142. Mon—Sat 10am-5pm. Free. Founded in 1955, the museum has five public

this weaving wonderland. You’ll get the chance to try your hand on a real loom and visit two mixed-media exhibitions,

galleries with all manner of archive Story Of Weaving and Highland Dress expertise. material and old toys relating to Through The Ages. And if you’re feeling childhood through the ages. From antique brave you can dress up in ancient The People's Story

dolls to 19805 computer games, there’s Scottish costume and have your photie Canongate Tolbooth, 163 Canongate,

plenty here to send you off on a trip taken. Edinburgh, 529 4057. Mono-Sat down memory lane. 10am-5pm. Free. Situatedin the Royal Museum Of Scotland Canongate Tolbooth, the sights, sounds

and even smells of Edinburgh folk from the 18th century onwards are faithfully reproduced.

Museum Of Scotland Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 247 4219. Mon—Sat 10am-5pm; Sun noon—5pm;

2 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 247 4219. Mon-Sat lOam—Spm; Sun noon-5pm; Tue 10am-8pm. £3 (£1.50); children